If you’ve been following me on Twitter, then you know I’ve been pounding the table for the Detroit Lions to select Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle with their first-round pick. I truly believe Waddle is the the number one receiver in this class, but LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase is easily 1B. With that in mind, the Lions should definitely consider drafting him with the seventh pick.
What is Chase bringing to the table? The former Biletnikoff Award winner was a key part of now-Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow’s record setting 2019 season at LSU. Chase put up big numbers that season, reeling in 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns.
We talked a lot about speed when evaluating Waddle. While Chase isn’t as fast Waddle is, he’s still got top line speed. He ran a 4.38 at his pro day and like Waddle, he can flat out get away from defenders. He averaged 21.2 yards per catch in 2019. He also has great ability after the catch. Joe Marino of The Draft Network had this to say about Chase’s yards after the catch ability.
“Chase does well to maximize his receptions by being decisive, physical, shifty, and smooth working after the catch. He generally showcases outstanding vision as a runner while making terrific decisions with well-executed cuts, which enable him to break pursuit angles. While Chase isn’t going to win every foot race, his polish as a ball carrier allows him to be productive creating after the catch.”
There’s two areas that Chases shines brighter than Waddle. That’s his vertical jumping ability and his size. Chase had a 41 in vertical leap at his pro day. Per CBS Sports, he is only one of 23 receivers to log a 41+ vertical since 2011. Chase’s six-foot, 207-pound frame allows him to be a better blocker and and shake off coverage a little better than Waddle who comes in at 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds. This size and his jumping ability helps a lot in contested situations, and makes him a physical threat against smaller defensive backs.
There are valid concerns about Chase’s game, though. He hasn’t played football since LSU won the National Championship on January 13, 2020 after choosing to opt out last season. That’s 470 days without playing live football. Lions fans will immediately be reminiscent of former Lions first round pick Mike Williams who sat out a year after trying to come out to the NFL too early. I will say that this seems to be a completely different situation. Chase appears to be in tip top shape, and I’m sure he’s been training hard throughout that time. Still, it’s hard to look the other way.
The other concern is more of a question. How much of Chase’ success was because his quarterback was having a legendary season? I suppose you could also ask the question of how much of Joe Burrow’s success was due to Ja’Marr Chase being good? It’s not something that you can always quantify. But it would be nice to know what Chase looks like in a bad situation.
Rumor has it that the Lions haven’t been doing that to Chase. On Wednesday ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the Lions were in discussions with the Atlanta Falcons to move up for the fourth pick to take Chase. Obviously the Falcons didn’t bite on the offer and it’s hard to tell how much truth there is to that rumor, especially since the Lions have been involved in a number of them this month.
In case you’re keeping score:
– the Lions really want to trade down
– but they also tried to trade up for a WR
– and they may not pass on a QB at 7
– but Spielman may influence them to take Parsons
– they also might bolster the offensive line
Well, that covers everything.
— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) April 28, 2021
Given that most believe Chase to be the best receiver in this year’s class, the Lions may not get a shot at him if they stick at seven—hence their supposed efforts to trade up. But if luck falls their way, expect them to run up the card, and they’d be getting a heck of a football player in return.